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8 Rules to Travel with Kids – Safely and Sanely

?????????????????????????????????????????????????Winter’s winding down and many are counting down the days to spring break and a trip someplace warm, or maybe just a day trip to a water park or the local indoor pool. You can probably see yourself there now – lounging around while the kids splash happily – family bonding, smiles all around, the stress of the many months of school, holidays and routine behind you – you hope.

As a single mom who has traveled solo across multiple continents with two kids since they were babies, I’ve learned a few things about traveling with kids that also keep me sane. Here are my basic and very realistic rules:

Rule #1: STICK TOGETHER!!! We have one rule that supersedes all others – stick together! Back it up with ‘if you can’t see me, I can’t see you’. This applies to museums, airports, parks, shopping centers and always, always around water. For infants and toddlers in the water this means staying within arm’s reach, meaning if you reach out your arm, you can grab them before they go under or get into trouble. As they get older, within 10 feet in a pool but closer if open or unfamiliar water. If your child is a competent swimmer (I define this by ability to do full 25 meter laps in deep water using a proper stroke) AND is in familiar water, you can lengthen the distance – but always within eye-sight and a distance you can easily navigate. And always swim near a lifeguard when possible. For some other great open water safety tips, click here. Once they are old enough to let them out of sight occasionally, have regular check-ins – and not minutes, use ‘every two songs’ or ‘every two times down the water slide’. Oh yes, I’m really mean, they don’t check in, we leave. Period. Better a mean mom than a dead kid.

Rule #2: Set expectations. Be brutally honest when you get ‘how much longer?’ The correct answer is ‘the whole day, as long as you are awake’ or ‘six episodes of Scooby-Doo’ or ‘the length of time it takes to get to Grandma’s house’. Don’t be afraid to say ‘longer than you can imagine, so don’t bother asking again.’

Rule #3: Toys. Forget that bag of perfectly entertaining toys that you so carefully chose to enrich their formative minds that you will bring out every half hour to divert them while you all bond happily. Let them choose one toy at the airport or before you leave on your car trip, make sure they know that batteries aren’t allowed to be used in the car/plane, and don’t cringe when they choose something vile, cheap and not even remotely educational. The fact that they chose the toy will mean it will probably occupy them the entire trip. Trust me – I saw a remote control plane and battery-operated kitten occupy my then 2 and 4 year-olds for an entire 9-hour flight – with the batteries removed.

Rule #4: Pack snacks. When it was just me I’d have my bottles of water and mist-bottle to stay hydrated and fresh, an assortment of current reading material, make-up to freshen up and heavens knows what other ‘essentials’ in my carry-on bag. Now I have snacks. Pre-packaged is best. Annie’s Fruity Bunnies, Twisted Fruit, and Z-bars are firm favorites. And this would be a good time to go natural, they are hyper enough with the travel, ditch the chemicals. Plus the fruit/fiber helps in other areas. In terms of quantity, a good rule of thumb is ‘one snack every hour of travel’, and at least that for drinking juice or water. Even picky eaters seem to get the munchies when they travel. Follow this routine up with forcing everyone to use every clean public bathroom whenever you find one, whether they need it or not.

Rule #5: Have a ‘travel bag’ for each kid. Mine started with a small duffel bag I could carry and graduated to Land’s End rolling backpacks – 7 years of hard travel and still rolling well. Make them personal and special – our bags are only for travel. I’d advise not to have the child’s name embroidered on the bag, it means strangers can call to your child by name, but my kids choose an embroidered soccer ball and cat to personalize their bags. Let your kids pack what animals/toys they think they need (not what you think they should take) and remind them to leave room for souvenirs. If they can’t carry it, they can’t take it – whether we are traveling across town or across countries.

Rule #6: Home is familiar, no place else is familiar. This means that in some cases you need to be more vigilant regarding safety. If you have a sleep-walker, make sure the doors are locked and/or barricaded, especially if there is a balcony. Going someplace with a pool or beach and you have a non-swimmer? Think about investing in one of the wrist bands that emits a loud noise if it is immersed in water, like Safety Turtle. Do not buy those inflatable arm bands. They are dangerous, not even toys in my view. Stick with a Coast Guard approved life jacket or, for reasonable swimmers, a SwimFin. Remember, your child is not around a pool or beach every day, they don’t understand the dangers.

Rule #7: Leave some rules at home. Whatever it takes. I’m a stickler for good manners in public places, but I also know I ask a lot of my kids with the traveling we do, so we leave some rules at home. Electronic devices are my BFF on long trips. On one especially brutal flight I told my then 7-year old son, ‘look, there’s Terminator #75 on channel 3! Watch that!‘ (kidding, but I was really close) We have a tradition now that on one night we order room service. It’s not a luxury, it’s a sanity-saver. The kids revel in sitting on the floor eating nuggets and fries while watching a movie. I have adult food, a glass of wine, and a good book. And we all RELAX!

Rule #8: RELAX! The stories that get re-told until they become family lore are frequently the ‘do you remember when….’, when things didn’t go exactly as planned, and especially when you messed up big time – those times will be the highlight of their childhood memories. The highlight of one recent trip (for my kids) was when I earnestly asked the guide ‘why is it called a brown snake eagle?’ (doing that ‘educate the kids thing’) Um, because it’s brown, it’s an eagle and it hunts snakes. Duh. It all goes into the family lore, what makes you a family, and it is some of the most treasured memories your children, and you, will have.

Travel is an education and an adventure in and of itself, so chill out and pack your bags!

Carbon Monoxide is a Silent Killer…How to Keep Your Family Safe

As the winter months rapidly approach and the cold starts to set in, It is inevitable that people will start to break out the heaters. It is around this time of year that you will start to see an increase in the number of Carbon Monoxide stories in the news and especially in the hospitals. It’s the Carbon Monoxide I would like to talk about today.

What is Carbon Monoxide and how can I tell where it is?

Carbon Monoxide or CO, is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is created from unburned Fuel Sources such as gas, oil or coal. So any appliance that uses fuel can create carbon monoxide. Heaters, Furnaces, Dryers, Cars, Fire Places, Chimneys, Generators, Barbecues, etc.. all have the ability to create carbon monoxide. Please make sure that any fuel burning item in your home has been properly installed and sealed, and that all manufacturer instructions for doing so have been followed.

Items that use electricity do not burn a fuel and do not emit carbon monoxide. While these items may pose a significant risk of fire when used improperly or left unattended, they do not burn fuel and do not pose a risk of Carbon Monoxide.

Common Locations of Carbon Monoxide:

  • Automobile Garage – Cars warming up or left running in a garage will cause a build-up of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Laundry Room – Laundry machines that run on natural gas or propane can emit propane.
  • Basement – Furnaces and Heaters located in a basement or enclosed area can cause a build-up of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Kitchen – Gas Appliances like ovens can emit Carbon Monoxide.
  • Bedroom – Fuel burning heaters such as gas lamps and heaters can emit Carbon Monoxide.

What are the Signs of CO Poisoning?

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty Breathing.

How Can I Detect CO In My Home?

While CO is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas it can be detected with Carbon Monoxide monitors that can be bought at many stores. Things to know about CO detectors before you purchase:

  • CO detectors come in many sizes.
  • CO detectors are NOT all the same. Some detect non-lethal low levels of CO while others only detect potentially lethal high levels of CO. Please read the package on the detector you purchase.
  • Some can be hardwired to your house alarm system and some use batteries AA or 9volt batteries.

Where In My Home Should I Place CO Detectors?

  • CO detectors should be placed in areas of the house you spend the most time in. The living room, Family Room areas are great places to put them and they should also be placed outside the bedroom areas to alert occupants Before it reaches the bedrooms.
  • CO detectors should not be placed next to or near items that emit a lot of heat as it may cause the device to malfunction. As always, please read and follow the instructions on whichever device you purchase.

What should I do if my CO detector is activated OR someone in my home begins to have the symptoms of CO poisoning?

  • If the detector is activated you should immediately open doors and windows and go outside.
  • Once outside, assess to see if anyone is having symptoms of CO poisoning.
  • If anyone is having symptoms CALL 911 AND Follow the instructions they give you.
  • If the alarm continues to sound call 911 and let the fire department clear the home.

For more information on Carbon monoxide you can contact the following:

  • Your local Fire Department
  • Underwriter Laboratories – 1-847-272-8800
  • Utility Companies in your area. The Gas company for example.

As always, I urge everyone to err on the side of caution and CALL 911 if any concern exists about CO in your home. Please be safe and use your items carefully. Here in South Florida during hurricane Irma there were fatalities due to CO because people ran generators and motors inside of their homes while they slept and succumb to CO poisoning. Always run motors and any fuel burning device in an opened, ventilated area!

Be Safe and stay warm.

An EMS Guide to Hurricane Preparation: Keep Your Family Safe!

girl_under_umbrella_hurricaneWe are just beginning August and already in the middle of an above-average hurricane season. While the thought of being in hurricane season may not concern most people, the thought of getting ready for a hurricane can cause some worry and panic if left to the last minute. The long lines, the financial cost, and finally the letdown when yet another hurricane comes and goes and turns out to be nothing more than a windy, rainy day has made properly preparing for hurricanes a bother and an afterthought. I realize that hurricanes, unlike earthquakes can take days and sometimes weeks to happen and give ample time to prepare, but the fact remains that proper preparation and planning can avoid putting you and your family in danger both during and after a storm.

As an EMS provider, I would like to share with you some of the basic hurricane preparation tips that we tell people and also share with you some of the issues that I have seen in the aftermath of storms and weather events.

INSIDE YOUR HOME

  • How many people will you be preparing for? Will it be just the people in the house or will there be extended family or grandparents as well. Preparing for four people and housing more will deplete supplies very quickly.
  • Do the people in the plan have special needs, handicaps or medications that need to be filled? What about medical devices that require power? Beds, oxygen tanks, breathing machines, asthma machines etc. All need to be considered.
  • If you have a baby or small child, do you have an ample supply of diapers, formula, medication, clothing etc.
  • Food and water. Buying nonperishable food is recommended, and having at least a 3 day supply is recommended as well. How will we cook the food? Propane tanks should be filled and ready, does a barbecue need to be purchased or brought inside? Refrigerators and freezers should be set very low to preserve food in times of power loss. Enough water should be purchased to keep people hydrated during times of power loss and no air conditioning to avoid any heat or dehydration issues. Water should also be considered for cooking needs as well.
  • Do you have enough batteries to power devices? Do you have a power generator in the event of a loss of power for an extended amount of time? There are many different sizes depending on your power needs. Do you have gas for your generator? When storing any type of fuel, please do so in a well ventilated area and not in the living area as fumes may be toxic.
    NEVER RUN YOUR GENERATOR IN OR NEAR THE LIVING AREA. Carbon monoxide from the exhaust can be fatal. The generator or any motorized device should be run outside, in a well ventilated area, well away from where people are gathered or living. Do you have extension cords to run into your home from the generator? Make sure you buy properly rated cords or you could risk a fire starting from overheating of the cords.
  • All pets should be brought in during the storm and enough food and water should be on hand for the pet inside the home. Will there be different pets in the house and could that cause problems? Do the pets take any medication that need to be filled before the storm? Do any of the people staying in your home have any pet allergies? And will this be a possible issue?
  • First Aid supplies. During a storm, EMS providers and fire trucks cannot go outside once the winds hit a certain miles per hour and may prevent us from responding to your home in an emergency. Having a basic first aid kit and supplies such as band aids, gauze, ice packs, ace bandages etc. will help in times of delayed response by EMS.

OUTSIDE YOUR HOME

  • Patio items. Are there any items that may fly way during a storm? Patio furniture, above ground pools, Barbecues, boats, golf carts etc.. If it can be brought inside then it is recommended, but if it cannot then secure it the best you can or try to find an alternate storage site.
  • Securing your home. Do you have impact windows and doors? If not, then are there any hurricane shutters that need to be put up? Do you own hurricane shutters? If not there are places that sell them in standard sizes. Do we have any lingering roof or window issues that may worsen during a heavy rain and wind event? A little drip can turn into a lot more very quickly. Do you have a flooding issue around your home? Sandbags may need to be filled and placed as well.
  • Vehicles can get severely damaged when left outside in a storm. If you have nowhere to store your vehicle then I recommend pulling it as close to the building as possible to avoid as much exposure as possible and it can provide some protection to the structure as well. Having the vehicles fully fueled beforehand is recommended in case of emergency and also to avoid the long lines at the gas station that always result.
  • Sheds and outside storage. In hurricane Andrew here in south Florida, there were numerous reports of tool sheds being sent air born and the tools inside become very sharp and dangerous projectiles in the process. Please secure sheds and storage as much as possible and bring tools inside if possible.
  • Items attached to the home. Any items on the roof such as turbines or whether devices can be ripped off leaving very large holes in the roof and should be removed and capped if possible. Below ground pools should be lowered to avoid damage to the pool as well as the overflowing possible causing flooding towards the home.

Being 100% prepared for a hurricane truly depends on your needs and the needs of those around you. The list of possibilities is endless but the basics are not. What things do YOU and YOUR FAMILY need to survive on a daily basis? Is a question that should be asked, and contrary to your kid’s beliefs, internet is not one of them. The basic essentials of shelter, food, water, and medicines trump all else. The overall list can be long and daunting and looks much worse when done at the last minute. But having the essentials on hand at the beginning of hurricane season leaves time to accomplish everything else thus making that list not so bad. Having been born and raised here in South Florida and gone through hurricane Andrew, I can tell you firsthand that the supplies we had made all the difference and it will for you as well. I hope this list has served as a guide and a good place to start for you.

Thank You

Embrace Life by Buckling Up [Video]

It never ceases to amaze me how many people do not use their seat belts while driving or riding as a passenger, even with all the statistics and evidence that proves the risk of severe and/or fatal injuries is immensely higher for those who do not buckle up. As a registered nurse, I’ve seen too much to ever think of being in a moving vehicle without my seat belt on to protect me.

An ad has been circulating to promote seat belt usage in a new way. It is a short, simple message, and yet so powerful and it is the hope of the creators that it will inspire people to stop and think about all they stand to lose if they should ever be in an accident while unbuckled.

Do yourself, your family, friends, and all of us a favor – BUCKLE UP and drive safely! Your loved ones will be glad you did!

Water Explorers: Family Fun in the Sun

Water ExplorersFew images evoke the feeling of “getting away from it all” as does a canoe, kayak or raft gliding with the current. But you don’t have to live on water — or own a boat, for that matter — to organize an offshore trip. Nor do you have to sign on to an expensive, multi-day, wild river run to experience the wonders of water travel (sans motor) firsthand. With a little research, you can plan a safe and fun expedition that won’t sink your finances in the process.

Rent, rent, rent your boat: Where there is a lake or river, there are usually clubs, outfitters and/or liveries that rent out small vessels — and of course, life jackets — for several hours. Former river guide and adventure mom Julie Thorner of Bryson City, N.C., recommends using an adventure vacation site and doing a little research to find reputable outfitters. Typically, you don’t have to worry about securing a permit. That’s the job of the organization you rent from, and it’s covered by the small fee you’ll be charged for the rental.

Know your water: What you do need to worry about, says Thorner, are the conditions of the water you plan to travel on. She advises all canoeists, kayakers and rafters to make a point of knowing the water. Rivers and rapids are classified to help paddlers know how challenging a route is. For example, a Class I river has few ripples or obstacles, a Class II has some moderately difficult rapids and so on up to Class V, an extremely challenging river with narrow passages, rocks and violent waves.

Know your limits: Novice paddlers looking for excitement can consider a rough river but only if they invest in the services of a guide to travel with them, says Thorner. The experience of a seasoned paddler will help calm nerves — if not the waters — when the craft encounters Class III or IV rapids. A good outfit will have a policy for determining age-appropriate trips. Just make sure in advance that all members of your group, kids and adults alike, are up for the adrenaline rush that comes when you hit dicier waters.

Take it slow: Prefer to leave the guide behind? Paddling newcomers should stick to lakes, which are flat except during windy weather, or Class I or II rivers. You don’t need a guide to do a day float on a gently flowing river or on a lake, says Thorner. “Plus, it’s a great confidence builder to do it on your own,” she says. If younger children are on board, bring along plenty of snacks and plan to stop several times along the banks of the lake or river, making sure to tie up the boat if you intend to swim or walk along the shore.

A no-tip tip: It doesn’t take much for a heavy canoe or traditional kayak to tip over, and righting them, especially in a current of any kind, can be very difficult. Many outfitters also offer inflatable kayaks (often called duckies) and rafts, which are less tippy and much easier to right should they flip over and you fall out. Patsy Fisher of Etna, N.H., once tipped a canoe on the Connecticut River while paddling on her own, and pulling the overturned craft to shore — forget about righting it — was “incredibly difficult.” That’s one reason she prefers the serenity of canoeing on the lake near her home, especially when she’s with one of her three children. “You can hold a conversation — or not — while you’re skimming across the water,” she says. “It’s physical, it’s peaceful, and you can enjoy nature.” Perfect.

Keeping You and Your Family Safe From “Free Roaming” Dogs

Father and toddler feeding and walking with dogMany years ago, my sister had told me that while out walking her small young pup (A shih Tzu/Bichon mix) near my Mom’s house, a huge Mastiff came flying out of a house and ran straight for them. Her initial reaction was one that many of us would have…. Protect the one you love… so she grabbed Sylvi off the ground and used her own body to block the huge dog from getting to her.

I had not heard much more on this subject until recently…. but in the past few months, I have heard it quite a bit. My sister called me for advice on how to respond to some recent articles in her neighborhood newspaper about unleashed aggressive dogs in the neighborhood, that come flying out at people walking by with their dogs or kids. A friend of mine stepped in when a dog viciously went after her dog, and she ended up getting severely bitten in the process. And yet another instance where my friend’s 7 year old daughter was playing in her own front yard and a medium sized stray went after her. She only got a scratch, but that was because luckily, her Dad was right inside and chased the dog away… or it would have been much worse! But the most difficult part of this is that this little girl, who loved all animals, is now a bit fearful of dogs.

Let’s face it, having to be on guard the entire time is anything BUT relaxing!… so how do you handle it when a strange dog comes flying at you, your child, or your dog while you are just out for a nice relaxing stroll?

I have heard many different solutions to this problem… for example, some recommend carrying mace or pepper spray at all times. The problem I find with this is that for it to be effective, the dog has to be right up on you already. At that point, the spray may lessen the damage they do, but is not going to thwart the attack. The other danger to this is that you are spraying a chemical while you are in a panicked state, not to mention to use this item, you have to remove the cap, point and aim correctly, and make sure the wind outside is in your favor. The chances of you spraying it and hitting your target are minimal at best, and if you accidently spray towards your own eyes, you are now rendered useless and cannot help you, your child or your dog.

Another method I have heard used often is a walking stick brought along on the walk. The stick could be used as a weapon against a stray dog coming at you. However, for the same reason I find the Pepper spray or Mace to not be a good idea, again with a stick, you have to wait until the dog is right up on you to use it effectively.

So what is your best option? To start, some things to do before your next walk:

  1. First off, the most important thing you can do is to remind yourself to stay calm. No one thinks clearly when they are panicked.
  2. With regards to your children, you need to have a safety word that lets them know NOT to scream or run at that moment. Because self preservation is present the minute we are born So instinctively, if a dog runs towards your child, their initial reaction will be to scream and run. This is absolutely the WORST thing that they can do at that moment. When an animal in the wild is actively being hunted or pursued, it shrieks and runs away. So when your child goes to do this, it sets off the chase/prey/hunt instinct even more. Whatever your word(s) may be, make sure your child understands it means to calmly and quietly step behind you, but not to grab your legs….which would restrict your movement.
  3. Another important piece of advice…. Kids are notorious for asking a million questions. This is not the time or place to answer them. I remember growing up my Dad always had one rule in his car that had to be obeyed… if he said, “DUCK” at any time; we were to do it first, ask questions later. Same rule applies to your safety word. Now is not the time for: “But why…??”
  4. Finally – get yourself a very loud air horn. You will find them very inexpensively at Walmart or even at Party City . The advantage to these are they are lightweight, easy to use, no harmful chemicals are utilized, and best of all, it works!! Why does it work? When an animal has ‘locked on’ to a target, it is very hard to sway them from their mark. (We actually discuss this in detail in my post Recognize a Dog’s Body Language Before Your Child Get’s Bitten). Their 100% focus is on that target at the moment. However, a very loud and unexpected noise will break through and interrupt that brain wave that has them focused on you, your child, or your pet. Think of all the old movies you have ever seen that take place in the wilderness…. When the wild animal is about to attack, the human in the movie will shoot their gun into the air… and the animal takes off. Again, it is the loud unexpected noise that startles them and changes that brain wave.

If you are with a pet or a child and a strange dog comes at you, don’t quickly bend and pick them up. This now makes you the obstacle they have to get through to get to their target, and they will have no qualms about attacking you to get to them. Add to this that if you panic and go to pick up your dog or your child, now you have to juggle them and the horn, making it that much harder for you to use the air horn effectively.

Again, the most important thing is for you not to panic…. The calmer you stay, the calmer your child or pet will be knowing that you have the situation under control.

So now lets walk through the steps of what to do if a strange dog is coming at you, your child, or your pet…..

  • If you are walking with your child….. Have the air horn in an easily accessible place… many of them come with belt clip-ons. You see an animal coming towards you, Remember to remain calm…. sudden movements may agitate the stray even more. Give your child the word that means stand behind you. Your child gets behind you and you have your body turned towards the approaching animal. Mother And Daughter Walking Along PathCalmly take the air horn, and now blast the air horn. (Hold the button down for a long continuous noise. You don’t want to keep hitting the button over and over again… remember, it is the loud sudden unexpected noise that startles and stops them… don’t give them a chance to ‘get used to ‘ the noise by repeatedly hitting the button It will lose its effectiveness.) While holding the button down, instruct your child to start slowly walking backwards with you. When the animal stops and/or runs away, be aware that your adrenaline is still pumping…. It is a scary moment…. But do not start running away with your child…. It may cause the animal that was retreating to want to chase you again. Keep calmly walking away until you know you and your child are safe. Now, remember to tell your child what a great job they did!!!! Let them know how proud you are of them, that your teamwork kept both of you safe!!!
  • If you are walking with your dog…. It is important to remember that your dog’s instinct is going to be either fight or flight….. which are both dangerous reactions in this scenario. If their instinct is flight…and they go to run, the aggressive dog is going to give chase. On the flip side, if their instinct is to protect you…and they go into fight mode, they are actually ‘challenging’ the other animal and things can get ugly very fast. So remember, before heading out for your walk, put the air horn in an easy-to-reach convenient place. If another animal comes towards you, immediately tighten up on the leash, or step on the leash as close to their collar as you can get. (One of the advantages of you stepping on the leash close to the collar, is that this unusual action will surprise your dog, and they will be more focused on this than the approaching threat. It will also keep them still and free up your hands. Now blast that air horn!! Remember that it may startle your dog as well, so make sure you either have a firm grip on your leash, or that your foot holding the leash is firmly planted. The last thing you want is to have your foot on the leash, the air horn frightens your dog, and your dog tries to run, knocking you over in the process. Once the intruder has ran off, do not assume they are gone for good. Start backing away with your dog, keeping an eye on where the intruder went. You don’t want to turn your back on the intruder, thinking he is gone, bending over to pick up your dog and now you are attacked. Once you are sure they are gone, you can then pick up your dog or start walking away… but again, don’t run… it can attract the intruder’s attention and have him coming back for more.
  • If the other dog starts to head back in your direction, blast that horn again, long and loud. It should stop them in their tracks. At the very least, it should attract passerby attention and hopefully get you some assistance.

So to wrap this up, we’ll do a quick recap…. Before leaving for your walk, have the air-horn in an easily accessible place. If a strange dog starts to come towards you, remain calm and rational, have your child get behind you slowly, or hold your dog’s leash firmly to you. Do not run away or make any sudden movements. Give the air horn a long steady blast, not a bunch of quick bursts, then slowly back away, keeping an eye on where the intruder disappeared, and once you know you are safe, praise your child or pet your dog and reassure them (and yourself!) that you did a good job keeping every body safe!!

One last comment: as a professional trainer, I’m sorry to have to add that I can’t account for every possible dog’s reaction. I wish I could. But, for example, a dog that has been trained to be aggressive may not react the way the majority of animals would. There are always exceptions to every rule – however in most cases, this will be the most effective way to keep you and your family safe.

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